Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in many foods and plants. It is sometimes called “birch sugar” because the primary source of xylitol today is extracted from birch trees. Xylitol looks and tastes like regular sugar, but it is very different than sugar.
Xylitol has been in use in foods since the 1960’s. There have been more than 25 years of testing and Xylitol has been proven to benefit the teeth. Sugarfree gum and candy sweetened with 100% Xylitol have received endorsements from 6 national dental associations.
Tooth decay happens when bacteria in the mouth consume the ordinary sugars we eat. The bacteria multiply and produce an acid that destroys the enamel and allows the decay to begin. Xylitol will not break down in the mouth like sugar. Bacteria cannot use Xylitol as a food source, so they will not be stimulated to multiply and produce acids. Also, Xylitol raises the pH of the saliva and prevents bacteria from adhering to the teeth. Saliva protects the teeth by carrying minerals that can reverse early decay. Eating regular sugar even just twice a day will override the natural defense of the saliva. But saliva that has Xylitol is more alkaline and this pH actually encourages the minerals in the saliva to move into the damaged areas of the enamel. Therefore, soft enamel begins to harden again.
Xylitol is most effective in preventing decay when used at least 4 to 5 times daily. Research is showing that the number of exposures throughout the day is more important than the quantity Xylitol consumed. If the Xylitol is mixed with other sweeteners, the effectiveness of the Xylitol is diminished. The easiest way to get the benefits of Xylitol is to chew gum that is sweetened with 100% Xylitol after meals and use a toothpaste containing Xylitol to brush twice a day. There is also dental floss coated with Xylitol and Sugarfree candy sweetened with 100% Xylitol.
Here’s a routine that is easy to follow.
- Use Xylitol toothpaste, floss and mouthwash upon waking up
- After breakfast use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy.
- After lunch use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy.
- After dinner use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy.
- Use Xylitol toothpaste, floss and mouthwash upon going to bed.
There is one caution to Xylitol. Although it is very safe for children and adults, Xylitol is poisonous to dogs. If you decide to add Xylitol products to your dental home care, be sure to keep it out of the reach of pets.